Thursday, January 31, 2013

"If I let them, they'd do it all day."

I see/hear many people say "My child would do xyz all day if I let them", but how many have actually tried letting them? If you haven't given them the freedom to do xyz as long as they like, you don't actually know how long they would choose to do it. People can't self regulate when there are restrictions. If something is restricted or limited, it is natural to indulge or stockpile as much as poss...ible when it is available.

Think economics. If there was a gas shortage, would you run out and get as much as you could while you could? And what about when there isn't a shortage? You fill up as needed, right?

Another example- Imagine you had a craving for your favorite food. One of those cravings that keeps at your mind and won't go away. Now imagine someone else in control of your life said, "Here, you can smell it, look at it, and have one bite." Would that satisfy your craving? Likely not. It would likely make it worse. How would you feel toward the person making the rules and controls over you?

But what if you were in control of your life and indulged the craving until you were satisfied? You would likely be satisfied and your mind able to go about concentrating on other things. It is no different with children.
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Our Typical Dinner

Continuing our discussion on food. What dinner time looks like at our house-

5:30pm- Josh (8y) is down the street playing. I text message neighbor Mom asking her to let Josh know we're going to have dinner in 20 minutes. She responds letting me know Josh wants to stay over until 6pm when her son has to be inside for the night. I let her know that's fine.

6pm- Josh comes inside. Papa, Bug (2y) an...d I are already sitting down to eat. We all welcome him home, "Hey Joshy!"

Me- You want something to eat? We're having chicken.
Josh- Nah, I'm not too hungry. (sits down at table with some legos)
Papa- How was your friend's house?
Josh- Oh fun, we _______ (whatever they did that day).
Bug- Whatcha makin', Joshy? (referring to the legos)

Casual conversation continues until we're done eating or someone excuses themselves to do something else.

8:30pm- Without saying a word to Papa or me, Josh goes in the kitchen, washes a frying pan and makes himself some scrambled eggs. After he's done I ask him if he gotten enough to eat today, or if he'd like me to make him something. He responds, "Nope, I'm full now."

When a family isn't separated from each other most of the waking day, sitting down at the same time to eat isn't as big of a deal. We have all day to connect with each other. Even so, we usually all end up at the table for a little while and enjoy some conversation, even if we're not all eating.

It is important to help our children learn to listen to their bodies cues. Forcing someone to eat when they're not hungry is not healthy. Denying someone food when they are hungry isn't healthy either. Those actions can create an unhealthy relationship with food which can last a lifetime.
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Josh's Food Choice

To continue talking about how unschooled kids learn to self regulate with things like food and screen time, How Josh (8y) chose to cut sugar and wheat out of his diet-

To give back story, Papa and I try to eat a Paleo diet, but we don't force that on the kids. Neither do we force meal times or restrict particular foods. I'll ask them often throughout the day if they're hungry to try and make sure they're eating enough, but whether they eat or not is completely up to them.

One regular day Josh got up and didn't want breakfast. He instead went to play at the neighbor's house. He played most of the day, had something very junk foody for "lunch", and more junk for dinner. That evening he mentioned his head felt "spinny". I advised him that he was likely getting dizzy because he hadn't eaten any protein that day, instead eating mostly sugar products.

He didn't think so, he thought he just needed some water. Alright.

A little later he got a headache. I don't know that he'd ever really had a headache before, he was really hurting. I suggested maybe he lay down in his room with the lights down. He took my advice this time. I went in his room with him, bringing a book I have full of natural/nutritional remedies. I read aloud the sections about dizziness and headaches so he could choose what he'd like me to do to help him feel better. He chose to have a cool pack on his head.

The section I read him about headaches mentioned limiting certain foods, including sugar, gluten, nitrates, etc. After he was feeling a little better, Josh asked me-

J- Does this mean I have to be on a paleo diet now?
M- No, you can eat whatever you want, but I think its important to listen to what your body is telling you when you eat certain foods or don't eat enough of other foods.
J- I don't want to eat only paleo.
M- Alright, that's fine.
J- This means I have to give up my 3 musketeers! (He gets one at checkout at the grocery store every time we shop)
M- I'll still buy you a 3 musketeers if you want one.
J- But they have tons of sugar and I don't want to get headaches. This feels terrible!
M- I don't want you to feel terrible either. It's your body and your choice whether you want to eat sugar or not.
J- (really upset now) I wouldn't be able to eat ice cream either!
M- Ice cream does have sugar in it. Maybe you could consider eating sugar in moderation and being sure to eat enough protein to balance if eliminating sugar is upsetting you so much.
J- I don't want to get headaches anymore. I don't want to eat sugar. But what can I eat for snacks?
M- We've got almonds, carrots, pears, berries...
J- I don't like those. Do we have cheese?
M- We don't have any right now, but we can get some tomorrow. How about we go to the store and find you plenty of snacks with protein in it, so you've got them on hand?
J- Yes, that sounds good. Let's do that.

So the next day we did just that. We went to Whole Foods (a real treat, as our budget doesn't allow us to frequent there) where he was able to sample different produce, cheeses, and other snacks.

When you give children control over their bodies they will make choices in their best interests.

Favorite Family

In my first post today I talk about how I don't always like parenting peacefully. Then there are moments when I really love it, and these moments heal my heart and keep me going. Moments like this one last night-

Josh (8y)- Can I sleep in your room tonight?

Papa- What makes you want to sleep in our room tonight?
Josh- Well, its got my favorite family in it.

Sometimes I Don't Like This...

I'm going to start the day off on a negative note, but it will get better from here.

I don't always like being a peaceful parent. There, I said it. And I bet some of you feel this way sometimes too, and maybe you feel guilty about feeling this way, so you don't talk about it. I get that.

I can't tell you how many times a day I want to say, "Do what I told you, dammit, because I'm bigger and and what I want is more important than what you want." I think about how I didn't get to be free and treated equally when I was a child. My parents got to do everything their way. When is it *my* time to get to live life *my* way?! Why does it feel like I'm getting the shaft here? Why am I the one to break the cycle and give my kids what I never had? Why didn't anyone do this for me?

Quite clearly all those thoughts up there are very selfish. I realize that. And then I feel guilty for thinking them. What kind of person am I that I put my own wants over the needs of my children? Too often I do peaceful parenting actions because I know it's what I should do, but my heart isn't behind it and that makes me feel really terrible. That feeling then brings me back to thinking about my childhood and how I'm emotionally stunted, immature, and I wonder if I'll ever grow out of it. Then I get angry again that no one gave me the gift of being raised peacefully, and the vicious circle continues.

Breaking the cycle is hard. "Natural" parenting doesn't come naturally for those of us who never knew it when we were growing up.
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Anyway, we were at the park, Papa, me, our boys, and Josh's friend, when Friend says, "Ugh! Do you smell that? Somebody is cigaretting!" accompanied with a disguste...d glare at the lady across the street who was smoking.

I won't even get into the fact that a 7 year old used the word 'cigaretting'. I want to focus on the judgment in his statement and glare.

I remember being told how disgusting smoking was as a kid, and probably reacting exactly like Friend up there. And then I started smoking when I was 16. And I quit around age 24.

The point I want to make is that all the 'smoking is disgusting, wrong, addictive, unhealthy, etc' speeches and propaganda didn't teach me not to smoke. They taught me to judge people who smoke. When my kids say something about someone making choices different than ours, I want to remind them everyone has the right to make choices for their own bodies. If they ask me why I don't smoke, I want to tell them I used to but I stopped because I didn't like how it made my clothes smell, my skin feel, my mouth taste, my head feel, etc.

I know I am guilty of making a snide comment or shooting a judgmental look at people's actions. Papa and I can have a pretty mean sense of humor sometimes. I didn't really realize until Friend's comment how much these subtle displays of parents' judgment can rub off on their kids. The world doesn't need more judgment, it needs more tolerance, understanding and love.

So here's to adding yet another thing to my parenting 'to-do' list. Keeping my prejudices and judgments in check and replacing that with modeling more tolerance and understanding. This is truly proving to be a never-ending journey. :)
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Arm Kids with Real Reasons

"This post is inspired by a comment left a while back. I'm sorry I don't remember who to credit, but thank you for some great advice.

While raising your children, arm them with the rules they can take with them when they leave your home. The universal rules that govern us all. "Because I said so" doesn't mean jack once they leave your house. Teach them the real reason to do or not do things. If you can't come up with a better reason than "because I said so", it's time to rethink your expectations."

Must We Have Favorites?

The other day one of Josh's friends was over. Bug was watching Thomas the Train, and this friend asked Bug which train was his favorite. Bug didn't understand the question, so the friend kept pressing. Josh finally answered, "He doesn't have a favorite I guess." "But he has to have a favorite," his friend responded.

It made me think back to when I was in school and we filled out those "About Me" ...worksheets with favorite colors, food, tv shows, sport, etc. I'm not really sporty so that question was always awkward to answer. I like different colors for different situations, so I didn't like definitively stating one was my favorite. And then I wondered what other kids would think of my answers. A boy who's favorite color was pink would have been taunted the rest of the year, maybe for years. What if other kids thought my favorite tv show wasn't 'cool'?

I'm starting to feel that I don't like the "What is your favorite...?" question. I feel it implies everything has to be ranked most favorite to least favorite, artificially ranked best to worst. I feel it implies you can't enjoy the full range of what is out there. Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything wrong with having favorites. Or asking "Do you have a favorite...?" I am not liking the idea that you must have a favorite.

Just the early morning thoughts knocking around in my head. What do you all think?
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Being Up Front and Honest

Being open and honest is always best-

We try to eat paleo, but yesterday we went out for ice cream. I had a few bites of mine and it was just 'meh'. Left my mouth feeling all slimy and didn't taste so great. I told Papa how I had imagined my 'cheat treat' to be this vanilla cupcake from a little shop down town, not ice cream.

So we're leaving the ice cream shop and I mentioned I wanted to stop the cupcake shop for that vanilla cupcake. (These things aren't cheap, hence Papa's reservations down there.)

Papa- Don't you think it'd be better to get one later in secret? If we all go the kids are going to want one too, and we just went out for ice cream.

Me- Well, let's see what the kids think. Hey Josh, I didn't enjoy my ice cream so I want to pick up a cupcake on the way home for my treat. Would it be alright with you if I only get the one cupcake for me?

Josh (8y)- Sure, that's fine. I had my ice cream already, I'm full. Bug, it that alright with you?

Bug (2y)- Yeah. (he says 'yeah' to just about any question)

Josh- Go ahead Mom, it's fine with Bug and me.

Me- Alright then. (smiling at Papa)
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Can You Learn?

So, you say you don't feel you're educated enough to teach your own kids at home. Or maybe you feel you only could do it up through elementary level. Really? Who taught you? Who left you feeling so inadequate? Are you sure you want to entrust the same system that left you feeling proficient only through elementary levels to teach your children? A system which hasn't changed in 100 years?

Here's t...he more important question though- Can you learn? Have you learned anything new since you left school? I bet you have, and are fully capable of learning new things still.

If you can learn you can teach, because teaching is really facilitating learning. Your kids have a question you don't know the answer to? Go find the answer together! Show them how to learn by example. Show them how to ask questions and seek answers. Expose them to different resources. You are qualified to do this.
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What if School Wasn't Normal?

Why do we send our children off to school when they are 6 years old? Just because that's what most everyone else does? Because that's what our parents did with us?

If we didn't have the idea that we needed to send our children to school at age 6, would we still feel the need to send them to preschool at age 4? Would we still feel like they needed 'social interaction' and to 'learn to be away from... us' at such a young age?

What if we didn't live in a society where it is 'normal' to send our children to spend most of the waking day with strangers? I wonder, would we look at them differently? Would we look at our children at age 6 and see them as happy, intelligent, and developing normally? Would we see them as the sponges for information they are, with no need to be sent away to learn?

Would we stop questioning our own ability to raise our children? Would we look into their happy faces and think "I'm doing something right. I can continue to raise and educate my children at home."? What if we all thought about the fact that this new 'normal' of sending kids to school has only been around for about 100 years? Would we still think it was the right thing for our children?
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The Light Bulb Moments

Back in December Josh and I talked about the winter solstice, how it was the shortest day of the year, about how the Earth is tilted which is why we have seasons, yadda yadda.

Last night he came in at 5:30pm and realized it wasn't dark outside yet. Then that little light in his head went off, "It's still light outside because now the days are getting longer again! The winter solstice was the shortest day, and days will keep getting longer until summer solstice when they'll start getting shorter again!"

I absolutely love witnessing that moment when something clicks!"


"I try to do what is right simply because it is the right thing to do, not out of fear of punishments or hopes of rewards later down the road.

I want the same for my children, and so I do not create artificial consequences for their actions. Acting morally because we feel obligated, fear punishments, or expect rewards is not true morality

Bug's Alphabet Song

Bug (2y) and I were playing earlier, and I started to sing the alphabet song. He didn't like it, and let me know. I sang it to a different tune, and he was all smiles.

The realization that he will never be told there is a "right" and "wrong" way to sing the alphabet really got a reaction out of me. He has the freedom to learn the alphabet however he chooses, but it doesn't stop there. Because of the way we're striving to raise him, he has all sorts of freedom that I never had. Namely, his freedom to think for himself.

He won't be beat down with a "right" and "wrong" way to learn, a "right" and "wrong" way to live, a "right" and "wrong" way to find happiness, a "right" and "wrong" way to be successful.

I remember how devastating it felt when I realized most everything I'd been led to believe all my life was lies. That feeling when I realized how much of my life had been wasted thinking other people's thoughts. I watch the joy and freedom my kids are experiencing and think, "look at what was taken from me." It is an amazing feeling knowing it will not be taken from them; thinking of the possibilities that await them. That feeling motivates me to try harder and do better by them every day.

Making Agreements with Josh

We need to run some errands. The boys are playing outside with the neighbor kids.

Me- Hey Josh! We need to go to the store.
Josh- Uuuugh! My friend just got here. Can I go stay at his house while you're out?
Me- I'm going to be gone too long and won't be back before their dinner time. I don't feel comfortable inviting you over to dinner like that.
... Friend- That's fine with me.
Me- Yeah, but that is your special family time. Josh, I don't like that idea, how about something else?
Josh- I really want to play some more, and if its going to take us that long my friends will all be in by the time we get home.
Me- Okay, how about you play some more now and then we'll go.
Josh- Okay.
Me- 20 minutes?
Josh- 30?
Me- Alright, 30 minutes.
Josh- K! *running off*
Me- *yelling after him* Is that an agreement?!
Josh- Agreed!
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You Don't Need Stuff

"I think there is a common misconception with homeschooling, this need of stuff. The fear that you can't do it "right" unless you have all these specified tools. If you want to use all those things, go for it. But if you don't have them don't get tricked into thinking you need them.

One simple set of blocks can be used to learn colors, counted, patterned, stacked, weighed, etc. Not to mention built into castles, imagined to be trains, swords, etc. The more basic and plain the learning tool (toy), the more ways it can be transformed by the imagination.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -Albert Einstein"

Relationships of Tomorrow Start Today

My big two year old boy, he sure wants to be self sufficient. He wants nothing to do with me during the day. He can scoot chairs to the counters and cabinets to get what he needs, he can open the refrigerator, he will try his darndest to do it all on his own. He WILL walk on his own, everywhere. I must be out of my mind trying to help him put a shirt on, and he makes sure to remind me of how big a...nd capable he is every time.

Until he isn't, and he needs me. Right then.

Growing up and being independent is all fine and well, but its always nice to know someone is still there for you. That someone will always be there for you when you need a place to be vulnerable. It can be frustrating at times, being that place for someone, but I want to remember what an honor it is for him to place so much trust in me. I hope to always be a safe place for both the boys when they need me. When they're two... eight... sixteen... twenty-three... thirty....

The relationship you'll have with your children when they are teenagers and adults, you're building it right now. Today. Tonight. This moment. Don't be their safe place now and they'll likely turn to someone/something else next time.
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"They Need to Learn to Sit Still!"

I see many skeptics of unschooling say things like "Kids need to learn discipline. They need to learn to sit and do their work before they can play. That's how the real world works and one day they will need to get a job and take orders from their boss." Or something along those lines.

Sure, this is true if your hopes and dreams for your children are that they go into the world and join the rat r...ace, sitting in little cubicles working for the man all day, just like everybody else. Is that really your goal? Is that really what your child wants for their adult life?

If, hypothetically, you could hit a fast forward button to thrust your child into independence right now, what would they need to know? How to grow or obtain food. How to prepare said food for consumption. Basic hygiene and cleanliness. How to read. An understanding of economics and money management. How to negotiate and collaborate with people of all ages and backgrounds. How to creatively problem solve to get/do things they want and need.

How do you help them learn those things? Grow a garden together, hunt together, or let them help with shopping. Let them help you cook. Let them watch and help you keep a clean body and home. Read for pleasure. Talk about money. Involved them in the family finances. Model good communication. Let them out in the world. Let them play. Let them play. Live alongside them.

Seriously, no worksheets required. No forcing required. No dangling rewards like carrots needed. Not if your goal is to raise a free-thinking, independent individual.
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Who are these 'experts'?

Who are these 'experts' who run the education system? These administrators, board members, policy makers, and teachers? Who are they to say they know what your child should learn and when? Who are they to say their system is best?

On what do they base their statistics? Other people's children? Some hypothetical children? What about your child?

They don't know your child. They haven't held and c...omforted your child. They haven't put in the years and tears to figure out who your child is, what comforts them, their likes and dislikes, their interests and passions, their quirks, their essence, their nature. They don't love your child.

YOU have. YOU do. And that makes YOU more than qualified to educate them yourself.
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Exended Family

  • Let's talk about extended family.

    I read too often about people wanting to parent peacefully or planning to home school/unschool their kids and meeting opposition from their own parents and extended family. We've been there, I know how it feels. I also see so many suggestions to cut such family members out of the picture. I'd like to throw my two cents on the subject out there.

    Yes, there are people who are abusive. There are some people who are so closed minded they will never want to try to understand what you are doing. Yes, probably cutting people like that out of your life will be best. But I feel like most people genuinely love their grand kids and genuinely want the best for them. Every child deserves as much love as they can get and I believe it is worth it, for your children's sake, to try to work with grandparents like this.

    Acknowledge their concerns. Thank them for loving your children enough to voice their concerns. Firmly remind them that you also love your children and want the very best for them. Share some resources with them should they choose to research the subjects themselves. Stand strong in your decisions. But just as when peacefully parenting your children, try to see things from your parents' point of view and address the needs behind their behaviors. Perhaps they are feeling anxious at your breaking away from the norm. Perhaps they are feeling insecure with their own parenting choices of long ago. Perhaps they feel judged or even guilty. Perhaps they feel at a loss in how to interact with their grand kids 'appropriately'.

    It can be difficult to change our own ways and peacefully parents our children, let alone try to peacefully parent our parents as well. Try to stay patient. Try to offer suggestions and ideas. For example, Josh's grandma was at a loss for how to interact with him. In her experience children were made to sit and interact with their elders, out of respect. As we didn't make Josh do that, she felt disconnected and disrespected. We suggested she talk with Josh directly about her feelings, feeling that their relationship together was their business and not ours to dictate. We also reminded her of some interests they both share and suggested connecting with him over those activities.

    Over time, she's really taken our words to heart. She's even better about not saying "good job" to Bug than I am! She and the boys have a blossoming relationship, and I feel my relationship with her has grown as well. In a world already so disconnected, please don't give up on anyone without giving them a fighting chance.
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Food for Thought

I recently cut sugar and wheat out of my diet. It was awful at first. But now I am far enough along to start noticing some benefits. One of which is that I am sleeping better, which in turn has given me mental clarity and much more patience than I am used to having.

So often when our kids are having troubles we look to their diet and make adjustments to help them thrive, but how often as parents do we look at our own diets as affecting our emotions and mental state? We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of those precious kiddos.

I'm not saying what I did will be best for everyone, just offering some food for thought.

Go To Bed!

One of my lesser parenting moments-

The same day as I was talking about earlier. I was feeling pretty terrible, headache, stuffy nose, no energy, etc. I laid Bug down for a nap and went to lay down myself.

Just as I was drifting into a nice sleep, Bug shows up at my door, not at all sleepy.
Bug- Hey Mama!
Me- Bug, go to bed.
Bug- (smile)
Me- GO to BED!

And then he laughed at me. This kid, who has never been punished or yelled at in his entire existence, had no idea he was supposed to be intimidated by my raised voice. But I wasn't thinking clearly in the moment, so I tried again.

Bug- Hhmph.

And he turned around and went back to his room. Not to bed, I could hear him playing. And then I heard him saying "Go. to. BED! Go. to. BED! Go. to. BED!"

And then I felt like a jackass.

We all mess up. Own up, apologize, and try to do better next time.
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Math Curse

One of Josh's favorite bedtime stories is Math Curse by (Hey Josh! Who's the author of Math Curse?) Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. Awesome book with many starting points for deeper learning conversations, besides the obvious math problems presented in the story. Our latest round reading it brought up two new conversations.

First- "Hey Mom, did you know the author of this book is the same as The Sti...nky Cheese Man!? I wonder what else he's written." I sense another trip to the library in our very near future. :)

Then, at the end of the book the main character turns two halves into a whole, then jumps through the "hole". Josh said something like, "Its funny how they do that with the words. I mean, they're two different things!" So we talked about how words that sound the same but have different meanings are homophones, and how the author was making a play on words. Then we talked about how "homo" means "same", and "phone" means sound. That got us talking about prefixes and suffixes.

There are ways to painlessly work "lessons" into whatever your children are interested in. There is no need to force anything, let it happen organically. They're much more likely to retain the information that way also.
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Peanuts at Sprouts

One of my better parenting moments-

I was under the weather the other day, detoxing from sugar and wheat. Stuffy nose, major headache, groggy mind, no energy, "carb flu" as my paleo friends would call it. I hadn't planned anything for dinner, so I figured we'd go get something easy at the store.

Josh (8y) was also not at his best. He hadn't slept well, and he hadn't had enough to eat. Also it cold outside, and he hates to be cold.

So we pull up to the store and the following goes down-

Josh- I'm not getting out of the car.
Me- Come on. Let's go inside and get something to eat.
Josh- Its FREEZING!!! I'm just staying here!
Me- You're hungry, let's go inside and get you something to eat.
J- (on the verge of tears) But I can't eat anything in there and then we're going to have to buy it and take it back home and then eat it and I'm going to starve!
M- You can pick what you want to eat, open it, eat it, and then I'll pay for it when we check out.
J- No! Its too cold! I just want to stay here!
M- I'm not leaving you out here alone. Please, get out of the car and lets go inside.
J- No!
M- Honey, you're hungry and tired and aren't acting like yourself. Lets go get some food.
M- Josh, please, come on. Let's go.
J- No! You can't tell me what to do! You don't control me!
M- That's true. And likewise, you don't control me. I do not feel comfortable leaving you alone in the car. If you choose to stay here, I will choose to get back in the car too. Then I will drive home, to where we have no meal prepared and you still won't have anything to eat quickly. Or we can go in together and get you something to eat right now.
J- (grumbles under breath) Okay fine....

So we went in and he got himself some chocolate covered peanuts from the bulk bin. Two minutes later he was a completely different person.

It was hard for me to keep my cool in the moment. I didn't feel well myself, and people were staring as they walked past. What got me through was focusing on the fact that his needs weren't being met, and that was why he was acting out. No one is at their best when they're tired and hungry.
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Grammar via Text

Let's talk about something a little less heavy, like learning about apostrophes and contractions by text messaging. :)

Last month Josh's friend "Bob" moved to another town. Earlier while we were driving-

Josh- Hey Mom, I want to talk to Bob. Can I send his mom a text to ask if he can talk on the phone?
Me- Sure. Here you go. (handing over phone)

J- (figuring out how to send a text...typing typing) How do you make one of those top commas?

M- That's called an apostrophe. And I'm not sure without looking at the phone. What are you trying to type?

J- I want to say "Hi, it's Josh."

M- You could say "it is" instead.

J- Well that doesn't sound right. I'll say "Hi, this is Josh." instead.

M- Okie dokie.

J- (typing typing) UGH!!! I need to use an apostrophe again!

M- What are you trying to say now?

J- "I'll"

M- You could type out "I will".

J- Fine.

M- Do you see how sometimes when you're using an apostrophe you're combining two words together to make one?

J- Oh, yeah...

M- The apostrophe is like the place holder for the letters you leave out. Words that are combined like that are called contractions.

J- Hmm, neat.
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"How Did You Get Started?"

This question was posted to the wall yesterday- Could you share with us the conversation that you had with Josh when you began your transition? We have always followed gentle/mindful parenting principles but have friends who are transitioning and wondering how to start that conversation with their kids. The first step on our journey was mine. I watched a "facts about spanking" video on youtube and pretty much felt like a terrible person. Immediately after the video, without consulting Papa Bear at all, I called Josh into the room and said something along the lines of, "I know in the past we have spanked you, and I'm now finding out how wrong that is. I am so sorry that I ever hurt you or scared you like that. I want you to know I will never hit you again. I want you to know that your body belongs to you and no one is allowed to hurt you, especially not people who love you. I don't want you to be scared of me. I am so sorry." Many tears were shed. Josh hugged me and gently whispered, "Thank you Mama, thank you Mama." After that I talked with Papa Bear. We started reading everything we could. I bought several books on We listened to podcasts, particularly on Freedomain Radio. One interview with Dr. Ross Greene (I'll link in comments) talked about transitioning to a more peaceful parenting approach and how parents should NOT make a proclamation like "we're going to be peaceful now". Because you will mess up, and your kids won't take you seriously. Whoops, too bad I hadn't heard that earlier. Also in that interview, Dr. Greene talked about choosing your battles, but not in the heat of the moment. Pre-planning what you would work on as a family, like not spanking, and dropping everything else. No need to have any additional conflict in the already stressful situation of changing habits. So our first focus was to stop spanking. But we were still practicing a very authoritarian style or parenting, telling Josh what to do and expecting compliance. Spanking was replaced with more yelling. And since Josh *knew* he need not fear physical punishment, he got more courageous with yelling his thoughts back at us. Some would see that as a step backward, and so disrespectful, but we tried to focus on how he had all those pent up feelings of anger and frustration and needed to learn that it was safe to share his feelings with us. It was not easy. These were dark times in our house. Papa and I would often have to walk outside, or go in the car and scream, and take turns diffusing each others' anger. I mean, it was really bad. But slowly it started getting better. Not noticeably at first. Just one day we'd be sitting there and realize, wow, we haven't had to fight to urge to hit our child today. Wow, no one has yelled in the past hour. Things like that. So then we focused on not yelling and developing better communication skills. We made no proclamation this time, we just started working on it ourselves and let Josh's behavior evolve along with ours. It often felt like Josh was two steps behind us. We'd be so good about not yelling but Josh still was. It was a definitely trial of our patience. We had to remember the example we'd set for years, and that our new example would take a while to become the new norm. Not at all easy. So, that's how we got started. No particular conversation. I'd suggest watching that interview and taking the "one-thing-at-a-time" approach. Once we were doing better with communication we started working in conversations like "Who owns your body?" or "Who is responsible for your property?" Just off-hand questions, very relaxed and informal. But there is so much more hard work to be done before that point. Work on changing your own habits and let your children's behavior evolve along with yours. It is a long, difficult journey, but it is worth it. ♥

I'm just a regular mom

I wanted to say, again, that I am just a regular mom. I get it wrong a lot. I do not have any background in child development or psychology. I read a lot. I think a lot. I love my kids a lot. I love all children, and if I ever had a genie in a magic lamp, I'd wish for every child to feel loved and safe. Those are my only credentials. These posts are simply the ramblings of a lady desperately clutching her coffee and avoiding housework. Thank you for joining me and keeping me company along the ride."

Rules and Exceptions

" Josh (8y) came home from playing at a friend's house. We'll call the friend Joe. Josh- Mom, Joe says any adult can tell any kid what to do. Like anyone, any adult can tell a kid what to do and they have to do it. Me- What do you think about that? ... J- I don't think its right. M- I agree with you. Now, are Joe's parents asking you to follow certain rules at their house? Because you need to respect their home and property. If you don't agree with something you can always leave. J- No, that's just what Joe was telling me his parents teach him. How confusing must it be, to be told a sweeping absolute like "you do whatever any adult tells you to do", and then to have exceptions thrown on top. "Except if they're trying to touch you inappropriately." "Except if they're asking you to climb into their windowless van." "Except if they're offering you drugs." "Except if they're telling you to go against some other rule we've given you." Can you imagine? How conflicted must a child feel when trying to follow such a rule, considering all the exceptions, considering the repercussions if they get it wrong? And at what magic age does one stop being "the child" unquestioningly obeying what they're told, and become "the adult" able to order around others and expecting compliance? All very confusing indeed. Around here we like to keep it simple. Respect the body and property of others. Keep your agreements. And question everything.See More "

Let Them Do Chores

Let's talk about housework and teaching "responsibility". I've recently stumbled upon what I think is part of the reason Josh (8y) wasn't "into cleaning". To recap, we don't make the boys do any chores. I will occasionally ask them for help with things, like putting their dishes in the sink or gathering laundry, but if they don't want to help I drop it and do it myself. I recognize that having cl...ean dishes, clean laundry, swept floors, etc is important to *me*. It may not be important to them at the time. And instead of *making* it important to them by creating artificial consequences like punishments or rewards, I'd rather help them learn the enjoyment of keeping a clean home. So yesterday I was doing some much needed laundry and Bug (23m) wanted to watch the water fill the washer basin and pour in the detergent. Okay, fine. Then he wanted to put each piece of clothing into the dryer. So one at a time, I handed him a piece of clothing for him to fumble into the dryer. Later, he wanted to hang each of his shirts. He would hand me a hanger, I'd put the shirt on, then he would fumble the hanger back on the rod. Then while unloading dishes he wanted to hand me each dish to put away. So I let him hand me one. fork. at. a. time. And here's what I realized. When Josh was little I never had that kind of patience with him. He couldn't do it right, or quickly, and I just wanted to get it done and over with. What an unrealistic expectation for me to have, expecting him to eventually get it done better or faster without any practice. While Bug was helping me with my "chores" they took longer to finish, but we were spending time together in enjoyment. We were enjoying each others company and the steady rhythm of "Heeah go!" "Thank you." "Yoouuu WELcoooome!" After I'd shot Josh down for years when he tried to help me or spend this time with me, naturally he'd stopped trying. I can understand a resentment to my asking him to help. I can imagine him thinking, "Oh sure, NOW she wants me to help. But when I used to offer she rejected me." It took a while of us practicing this "radical unschooling" approach for him to work up the courage to offer again, and now he offers to set the table, sweep, mop, vacuum, you name it. All this to say, don't discourage them when they're little. Don't think they're not capable. Encourage their desire to help and connect.See More

"Because I said so."

The other day I saw one of those ecards that said something like "I'm the parent, therefore your argument is invalid." Really? Come on, now. Acquiring offspring doesn't come with a magical infallibility charm. None of us are perfect. And some people out there are quite unreasonable. Time and experience does not equal knowledge or wisdom. Let's remember that kids are people too, just younger peo...ple. Remember they have a fresh perspective on things. They may pay attention to things that we don't. Their reasoning skills can be much better than ours, because they haven't been conditioned to think the way we have. They call us out when we contradict ourselves. They seek the universal rules that govern us all. Let's try to pull the "because-I-said-so" card a little less, and give them their due respect and listen to what they have to say. We just might learn something.See More "

Post From OSC Mother's Day

Pinterest Makes Me Sad

I was scrolling through pinterest just now, and it makes me so SO sad to see people, especially people in my family, pinning things like "our get along shirt" or "21 creative consequences for disobedient children". Lists of ideas of things to do to punish children, humiliate them, take away their things, and otherwise manipulate them for being "inconvenient". Children are people, just younger pe...ople. They are not inconveniences. Why is it such a foreign concept to teach the intrinsic value of things instead of creating artificial consequences? I wonder, how these people would feel if their partners told them to finish a task before a timer goes off or risk punishment? It is so encouraging to "meet" people here who understand what I'm talking about. But it is a blow to the gut when I'm reminded that this way of thinking is no where near the "norm" in society.See More "

The Facebook Analogy

Let's explore an analogy this morning. Let's pretend that facebook was the entire world, the only material to read, the only pictures to see, the only videos to watch, etc. Just pretend. Let's say every time a page you "like" posted it would be like a new discovery in their respective field. If you scrolled through their archived material it would be like reading a history book. Still with me? ...Okay. Now let's say there was a page you could "like" called THIS that never posted anything original. All they ever did was share material from other pages. Some unknown admins would pick and choose what to share and when. Some people would only "like" THIS and let it be their one source of information. Some people would "like" THIS and maybe also find the pages who posted the original material, but THIS would be their first source of information. And some people would never "like" THIS at all, and would instead explore any number of original pages on their own. These people may spend great lengths of time on one page, reading through archives, looking at every picture, and watching every video. At other times they may skim through and hop around several pages. These people are like unschoolers. THIS is like the education system.See More "

Middle Finger

Part of what I love about unschooling is that Josh (8y) feels comfortable talking to me about anything. While reading him a bedtime story just now- J- Mom, can I do this? (holds up middle finger) M- Well, you can. Do you know what it means though? J- Um, not really. ... M- It's like saying the f word to someone. Like saying f you. At least here in the US, anyway. J- Oh, that's kinda what I was thinking. M- What makes you ask? Where did you see it? J- Oh, you know, that movie Christmas Vacation. M- oh, yeeeeeah, when Clark tells the kids to look at a deer. J- Yeah. M- Well, if you make that gesture, most people will get very offended. I'd only do it if I was looking to start a fight, you know? It's not something to joke around about. J- Oh. Okay. Innocent questions, honest answers. No fear of judgement or reprimand. This has really opened up our communication and strengthened our relationship.See More "

Teaching the Language of Respect

In teaching language and respect to a toddler, you've got to respond appropriately. If they say "no", respect that and stop what you're doing. If they ask for something, give it to them. This is how they learn the power of words. If there is some reason you can't or won't give them what they are asking for, take the time to explain and show them why. Give them some credit, they can understand you. If they say "no" and you continue anyway, if they ask you for something and you ignore them; you can't reasonably be upset with them if they do the same to you. You've taught them, through your reactions, that this is the appropriate response."

A Bit of my Background

A little bit of my background- I was born to teenage parents. I am actually in my mom's high school graduation picture with her. My parents practiced authoritarian style parenting. They were always right. My younger brother and I were often told, "Do as I say, not as I do." My dad kept a wooden paddle hanging on the wall in the living room for easy access for spankings. I got grounded. I had my t...hings taken away. I was shamed and ridiculed. When I was 10 my parents divorced. Things got better with my mom, and worse with my dad. There was no trust or communication in either relationship. Life was full of rolling eyes, yelling, and slamming doors. That is, when I had a bedroom door. As a teenager, at one point my mom thought taking away any aspect of privacy would help things. I had a limited amount of time in the bathroom with the door closed. I wasn't allowed to go anywhere with friends without parental supervision. Fast forward- I graduated, took some college classes, got pregnant at 19, lived an extremely stressful life for the next couple of years, and finally Josh and I moved to our own place when he was 2.5. (It was around this time I met Papa Bear, we married, he adopted Josh, and here we are.) I knew I wanted to parent Josh differently than my parents had with me. I didn't want the resentment and anger in our relationship that I had with my parents. And things went well for the first 3-4 years just going on instincts. Then Josh started to become "challenging". Not that he actually was challenging, but it was inconvenient for me to accept him as his own person. *I* needed him to eat *I* needed him to go to *I* needed him to wake *I* needed him to do what I told him without question. Not having armed myself with any new tools for effective communication or parenting, I resorted to what I knew. Spanking, time out, loss of privilege, threats. I said some utterly horrible things to him. Life was stressful, our relationship was strained. Here I was trudging down the very path I wanted to avoid. Until 1 year ago, when I watched "The Facts About Spanking" on Freedomain Radio. It opened my eyes to how my relationship with my parents contributed to my anxiety, teenage drug use, promiscuity, etc. I was seeing the start of these things in Josh (anxiety). It was an emotional awakening. I could not continue this cycle. And so began the journey of learning to be a better parent. Undoubtedly the most difficult undertaking of my life thus far.See More "

Josh is an Advocate

Josh (8y) is the biggest unschooling advocate I know. He chats everybody up about it. Two days ago we had a plumber out to fix a leak. Josh stood in the doorway watching what he was doing and chatting him up about how much he likes homeschooling. "Well, we home school, sort of. I get to pick what I do everyday. I like it a lot." Later that night we picked up some dinner and the hostess asked what grade he was in. "Second, sort of." Then she asked what his favorite subject was. Confused, as we don't divide life into subjects, he said, "Um.... well... astronomy. I home school and get to pick what I learn about." The look on her face was priceless."

Every Day is a Holiday

I'd like to say the holidays are a special time for most, but I don't know that. I hope they are special for you. They are special for us. What makes them so special? Time with family. Playing all day. Eating whatever you want. No stress about keeping the house clean. Mom and Dad forgetting about work and focusing on the kids. Not getting in trouble for silly little things. Everyone is rested, relaxed, and enjoying each other. Laughter. Love. Why can't every day be like that? No, seriously. Why shouldn't every single day be more like that? Let go of what "should be" and what "has to". Give it a try."

Elf on the Shelf

On seeking truth- Kuddos to whoever came up with Elf on the Shelf, marketed it, and surely has made pockets of cash. But I think its ridiculous. We don't do it, nor Santa. We teach Josh (8y) to respect that other families do believe in Santa and not to spoil their traditions with the truth, but we'd never talked about the Elf as its so new. He has heard of the Elf on the Shelf, but doesn't have t...he faintest clue what it "does". His friend came over and caught us off guard. First off- they actually stood and hung out in the living room instead of being a whirl-wind from room to room to outside. Friend- Dude! Where's your Elf?! Josh- What? Friend- Didn't an elf come visit you from the North Pole? We have one at our house! Josh- That doll in your house? Dude.....that's not real. Its a doll. Friend- No! He's real! He's totally real! Me- *trying in vain to get Josh's attention to tell him to stop* Josh- Dude.... seriously... your parents bought him. They're at Target. Me- *still in vain* Josh! Josh! Friend- Nuh-uh!!! My mom didn't have any idea where he came from! She didn't even know about it! *Finally I get Josh's attention and give him the cut-it-out-and-shut-up look and hand motion* Me- Oh, that's neat, but we didn't get any visiting elves here.... Friend- Seriously, my mom had no idea. Me- Okay. Hey, we're about to go ice skating. Why don't you go ask your mom if you can come along? Friend runs along home and I talk with Josh about it. Me- Some people do this Elf on the Shelf thing that goes along with Santa. I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it so you'd know, but same as Santa, we shouldn't ruin other people's traditions. Josh- But Mom, its so obvious that its a doll. Why do people believe its real? Why do people tell lies? Do some people just HAVE to tell lies? Me- No, no one HAS to tell lies. But many, many people do. You've got to keep that in mind and ask your own questions. Its up to each of us to seek out the truth for ourselves, not to just take someone's word for it. Josh- But why don't we tell people the truth? Then they wouldn't believe lies anymore. Me- Well first of all, we don't even know all the truth for ourselves. Secondly, although it would be nice for people to believe the truth when they're told it, that isn't how it works. Everyone has to want to find the truth for themselves. If we try to tell them they're wrong or make fun of them for believing something it doesn't help them want to learn the truth. You can't make someone want to seek truth, they have to want it for themselves. Josh- *sounding defeated* yeah....I guess so. Well I already pretend about Santa around my other friend, I suppose I can pretend this too. Me- Or just change the subject to something else if you don't want to talk about it. Josh- I still just don't understand how they can believe its real. Its so obvious.See More "

Response to Article

This article was shared to the wall late last night. I read it first thing this morning, and it made me so angry. Now that I've had the day to reflect on my feelings and put my thoughts together, I am ready to share it with you (although you may have already seen it at Free Your Kids). These parents, and SO MANY MORE, got to a point where they honestly felt like there was "nothing else they could... do". It is easy to judge them for their actions, but let's step back a bit and see how society and we ourselves fit into the picture too. Where is community any more? Where were friends or family willing to help give them a good night's sleep so they could approach their son with a clear head? How has it become so easy to ignore the nature that offspring are wired to sleep with their parents? Why was no one there to suggest they look into the needs underlying his behavior? Why did no one tell them it is okay to fulfill their son's need to be with them? Why do so many people think co-sleeping is detrimental to a couple's intimacy? We need to bring back community. We need to talk about the REAL challenges of parenting. We need to stop the illusion that having children is anything less than giving your life over to the development of another human being, for the sake of the future of humanity. Parenting is not all plaster hand prints and swinging at the park. It is coaching another person through the raw moments of fear, pain, and heartache. I beg of you, think of this article the next time you see someone ask for help online. Too many don't have a strong support network in "real life". If we can't offer them understanding, love, and support to find better options, this could be the result. More "

Laying the Foundation

" I get a lot of questions, here and out in the world, about why I'm spending so much time focusing on our relationships, particularly with Josh, instead of educational things. To answer that, keep in mind that Josh is only 8 years old, and has only been out of public school for 6 months. Papa and I have only been learning to parent peacefully for the last year. I'd say we only started getting cons...istently decent at it in the last month or two. So we have 7-8 years of parenting damage to work through, and 2 years of public school damage as well. That is going to take time. And I do appreciate your being patient while most of our posts revolve around this. I have plenty to say about the school system and how children learn, and we will have plenty of time to talk about college and jobs and the like. But right now we are working on fixing our relationships, so that is what I will largely talk about. Understand, we are undoing damage *we ourselves* inflicted. That is not an easy thing to come to terms with. I consider this the most important work we can do to help the boys be successful. No matter what your religion, race, background, intelligence, nationality, gender, or any of that, we all have something in common- interpersonal relationships. If we can help the boys learn to develop healthy relationships, along with reading and basic math skills (which Josh already has) they will be ready to take on the world. Certainly we won't stop there, but we will certainly be spending plenty of time on this foundation.See More "

Facilitating Generosity

# If we our kids to be generous we have to encourage and facilitate their generosity until they have a means to facilitate it themselves. After all, it isn't really the thought that counts, is it? It is the action. The world doesn't change from only a thought, but from the conviction to follow through and turn that though into action. Yesterday Josh (8y) made a lego something and wrapped it up for... a friend. "Can we take this to Ethan tomorrow?" Sadly, my gut reaction was to think about how far away Ethan lived, how that could potentially cut into our plans for the day, and how dang expensive those little plastic blocks are! I wanted to groan and think of a way to convince him it was nice for him to think to give his friend a gift, but we didn't *really* need to take it over there. I really feel like a terrible person admitting that. So I told him I'd call Ethan's mom today to see if we could come over. I learn so many things from my kids. Easily as much as they learn from me.See More " #

Christmas Cupcakes

Such a sweet moment- We got some money from my grandparents for christmas, so we divided it up and went out shopping today. We each had $20 to spend. I spent Bug's money for him on new glass/silicon not-quite-sippy cups. Josh decided he wanted to buy himself a $4 fancy schmancy cupcake and a $2 bottle of milk. Without even hesitating, he also bought Bug a cupcake while explaining to the cashier ...that his baby brother had already spent all his money. Then at the table while they were eating, he stuck a straw in his milk and offered some to Bug. "Oh! Quank you, Joshy!" I wanted SO BADLY to say something about how sweet he was to share, how nice it was for him to spend his money on his brother like that, how proud I was to see him being so generous and thoughtful. But he didn't need to hear that from me. That moment was between him and Bug, and he felt the joy of giving and saw the gratitude from his brother without any interference from me. So, even though I felt I could explode, I kept my mouth shut. Instead, I sat there and really appreciated the people they were and soaked in the moment. Then I got to thinking, calling attention to actions like that and talking about how special they are makes them seem abnormal. And why shouldn't it be normal to share with your brother?See More "

What is Normal?

# " I'm ready to continue my rant about food and food stuffs, if you'd like to join me. What is normal? What is natural? What is necessary? These are big questions. The answers can greatly affect our lives. Normal is certainly a matter of perception and perspective. Being much less immersed in society now, we are better able to ponder what we find to be normal without being bombarded by outside sou...rces' (the media) version of "normal". When I ask 'what is natural?' I'm talking about what we are biologically encoded to do. Why is it that what is 'natural' is not considered 'normal' by some, even after being passed down through generations? Also, what is 'natural' in regards to what we put in and on our bodies? How much of what we feel we "need" to do is actually necessary? Why do we feel things to be necessary in the first place? Society? Tradition? How much stress could we avoid if we let go of those ideas? This could turn into a huge discussion, and please go for it in the comments! Since I am currently working on our budget for food and cleaning supplies, I am going to apply the questions to personal hygiene and household cleaners. For example, you don't NEED to shampoo your hair to have lovely locks. You don't NEED to brush your teeth to have good oral hygiene; diet plays a much bigger role. I'll post an album shortly with all our household cleaning recipes. All simple, natural, and cheap to make. As mentioned before, there are more natural ways to do things. This is just where we are right now, and if it inspires anyone else or helps you save money, then awesome! Turn all this into a learning opportunity for both you and your kids. Look up the ingredients listed on your current cleaners, soaps or shampoos. Look into how some chemicals are made. Look into what pH is, and the role it plays in chemical reactions. Learn how chemicals react together. Learn how they affect our bodies. How many of the ingredients in some cleaners are actually "necessary" to get the job done? How many are there to extend shelf life? Many learning adventures await you!See More " #

That Awkward Moment...

That awkward moment when your 8 year old walks in on you having sex. Yeah. That happened last night. We forgot to close and lock the door, and in he walked. Thankfully we were already done, but still awkward. "Josh, Get out!" and out he ran, back to his bedroom. Papa- "Oh my god... how long was he in here?" ... Me- "Not long, he'd just walked in." P- *groan* M- "You know, we should go talk to him." P- *GROAN* M- "Come on, get some clothes on." So we go in there. Papa grew up extremely modestly, so I do all the talking. Me- "Hey Josh." Josh- "Hey." M- "When we walked in we were having sex." J- "I know." M- "Do you have any questions?" J- "No." M- "Okay" J- "I thought you were having a heart attack." M- "No. I'm sorry if it made you worried. We should have locked the door." J- "Yeah. If you'd have locked the door I would know not to come in there." M- "Alright. We'll do better to lock the door from now on." J- "Okay. Goodnight." M&P- "Goodnight, love you. J- "Love you." Back in our room.... Me- "He thought I was having a heart attack... " Papa- "Ye-ah. That's right.

What is Unschooling to Each of Us

What is unschooling? For Josh (8y) who went to public school for two years, it is unlearning everything the system "taught" him. It is re-discovering his curiosity, passion, and sense of self. For example- I was helping him with homework once, a multiple choice question which had 2 right answers depending on how the question was interpreted. Josh chose the "right" answer. I said, "Well this one ...could be right also, if you think of it this way." To which he responded, "Mom, this is the answer they want. Lets just get this done." He had been programmed to find the answer "they" wanted, without questioning or looking for alternative solutions. That was a defining moment for me. That moment I knew this had to be stopped. For Papa and I, unschooling is reevaluating everything. Things we thought to be true and necessary and vice versa. This journey is especially hard for us, because it calls into question literally everything we have ever thought and done. We're often finding once we question and analyze our motives, we come to different conclusions than we'd had before. It is mentally painful at times to come to terms with the fact that most of our lives we've been doing things we no longer agree with, and reconciling the reasons WHY we were doing those things in the first place. Now here comes the most important part of this post- For Bug (23m) unschooling is just living life. I wouldn't even use the word "unschooling" to describe his education, because he has no "schooling" to un-do. The way he learns is natural, normal, and beautiful. He is curious, he explores, he discovers, and he will simply continue to do so, not stopping at age 5 or 6 to sit in a room to "learn what he needs to live successfully". He will be out in the world, living, finding what he needs to be successful.See More "

Focus on Communication

I started off raising Josh (8y) authoritarian style, and I started off raising Bug (23m) radical unschooler- style. My experience with each is vastly different. I'm realizing a huge mistake I made during Josh's younger years (okay, several mistakes, but let's only focus on one at a time). I didn't focus nearly enough on teaching him communication skills. I focused more on teaching him things like... the alphabet, how to count, his colors, you know- things that are "important". I've since realized those things are not nearly as important as I thought. Now, with Bug, I'm focusing so much more on communication skills. Whenever I talk to him I make sure we are at eye level together. Either I pick him up to see me, or I kneel down to see him, so he can see my mouth while I talk. I speak slightly more slowly than normal, and I focus on using clear diction. Papa often makes fun of me for over enunciating words like wa-Ter. I make one statement and wait for him to process it and respond. I can see in his facial expressions, all the synapses firing in his brain while he mulls my words over, giving them meaning, remembering the last time he heard them, etc. It drives me batty when people talk to him quickly or repeat themselves incessantly when speaking to him. "Hey Bug, do you see this blue block? This is blue! This block is blue. Do you know what color it is? Its blue! Can you say blue?" How is anyone supposed to learn a language that way? I know every kid is different. Maybe Bug is just more wired for verbal skills, maybe its the way we're working with him, but he has fabulous diction for an almost 2 year old. He can clearly tell us when he's sleepy, hungry, thirsty, or wet. He says please, thank you, and you're welcome without ever having been asked to. His "terrible two's" are almost upon us, and we are yet to have any sort of melt down or temper tantrum. I firmly believe those sorts of emotional melt downs are a result of a child's inability to communicate or caregiver's neglect of meeting said child's needs. Whether you plan to unschool your child or not, my suggestion is to focus on teaching communication first and foremost. Be present when they are infants, learn their cues. Teach them sign language. Speak to them often, slowly, clearly. Teach them the back-and-forth of conversation by pausing to let them respond. Lay a foundation of good communication skills now for their future. It will help avoid so much conflict in the future, and be such a benefit for them in their adult years.See More "

Learning to Stay Out of Things

I've mentioned it before, Josh (8y) and Papa Bear have a bit of a strained relationship. Papa works long and hard, and he's just not home as much to practice this peaceful parenting business. Understandably, its difficult for Josh that he and I have made pretty good progress being around each other almost 24/7 and Papa isn't "up to speed", so to speak. Papa is off work for the rest of the month (don't be jelly, its without pay, just how his job goes), so what better time for them to work together, right? The head butting was in full force last night. One will get angry with the other, and usually that ends up with Josh running to his room very upset. Then I've got Papa on one side talking me through what happened and how hard this is for him, and Josh on the other telling me how mean Papa is and how hurt his feelings are. I'm done being caught in the middle. They need to work this out themselves. They had been wrestling around when Josh screamed at Papa and went running off. Me- What happened? Josh- I just wanted to walk around the other side of the kitchen and he wouldn't let me! He can't make me stay! Its my body! M- So you were tired of wrestling? Did you tell Daddy that? J- No. M- Well, no one can read your mind. You have to communicate things like that. Daddy thought you guys were having fun playing around. Now he's upset that you screamed at him and ran off. You guys need to talk it out. J- Can't you go talk to him? M- No. J- Why not? M- Because I'm not you. This isn't between me and Daddy, it is between you and Daddy. You've got to remember that Daddy's dad didn't raise him this way. He spanked him, grounded him, took his things away, yelled at him. He wasn't respectful in the way we're trying to be. Daddy is having to learn this and practice this the same way I am, the same way you are. Its really hard, but it would be easier if everyone would talk together to work these things out. J- I don't feel like going out there right now. M- Well when you do, will you please go talk with Daddy and work this out? I'm not going to be the go-between for you two anymore. I love you both the same and I'm tired of being caught in the middle and feeling like I have to pick sides. I'm not doing it anymore. J- But who do you love the most? M- Nobody, I love you all the same. Okay? Will you talk with Daddy? J- Yeah... So I go out to the living room with Papa Bear. M- He's not ready to come out yet. He says he'll talk later. P- Fine. *grumble grumble grumble* *some complaining I have since forgotten* M-Seriously, I'm tired of being caught between you two. I'm not doing this anymore. I'm fine supporting you when you need to cool down or talk through things, but you can go in there and talk to him. You're the parent, go initiate the conversation if you want. This is your relationship to fix, not mine. P- Fine (grumble). And they talked it out later. Some short and sweet exchange across the living room. Maybe it is wrong of me to step out of my mediator role like this. Maybe it was wrong for me to take it on in the first place. Maybe it has delayed a lot of progress, or maybe it has helped. I don't know, but it is what it is. Here's hoping all this time together over the coming weeks does well for them.

I love witnessing their learning

You know what I love about unschooling? I love watching my kids learn life skills. I love watching Bug (23m) crack an egg into a pan for breakfast. I love watching Josh (8y) take something apart when its broken to figure out how to fix it. I love that Josh wants to pump my gas for me every time we fill up. I love when we go over our grocery budget, plan a meal, and cook together. I love when Jos...h keeps a running estimate of our expenditures at the store, then counts out cash to pay for the items we buy. I love watching them out in the world, seeing how everything works, interacting with all sorts of people, learning how to navigate their way through. Everyone worries so much about teaching their kids to read, write, and do math but I worry about kids growing up without life skills. My kids are learning to read and all that as a byproduct of living. Its an afterthought, a means to achieve a goal. Their goal is not a gold star, an A+, a 1st place or some other external label of success. Their goals come within themselves. They learn because they are internally motivated by their own passions. And I love that I am able to witness it.See More "

Josh vs Bug Self Ownership

An example of teaching self ownership, and respect of others' bodies, to an 8 year old- Josh is 8 years old, and Bug is 23 months. Josh- Bug! Don't do that! ... Me- Josh, he is his own person, you don't have the right to tell him what to do. ... ... ... ... ... Josh- Bug, come here! (pulling Bug by the hand) Me- Josh, you did not ask permission to touch him like that. Stop pulling him. ... ... ... ... Josh- Bug, let's go play outside. (picks Bug up around the waist and carries him outside) Me- Josh, he owns his body, you can't just pick him up and carry him where you want him to go like that. If he wants to go out he can walk. ... ... ... ... ... Josh- Bug, time to come inside! Get inside! Come inside Bug! Me- Josh, he doesn't have to come in just because you're done playing outside. He is his own person. ... ... ... ... Josh- Bug! Get off of there! Me- Josh, he's not climbing on any of your stuff. You don't have the right to tell him not to. He is his own person. ... ... ... ... ... Josh- Bug, do this, over here, come do this! (Bug doesn't want to.) Come on, come on, over here! Me- Josh, he clearly doesn't want to. You need to respect his decision for what he wants to do. He is his own person. ... ... ... ... It is difficult right now for Josh to understand that Bug really is his own person and not his own personal play mate. Remember, the concept of self ownership is just as new to Josh as it is to us, we only started on this about a year ago. He had 7 years of authoritative parenting first. Bug is still small enough that Josh can physically manipulate him, and Bug doesn't know how to assert himself effectively yet. In the meantime, its my job to protect his rights for him. It honestly feels like I'm reminding Josh a million times every day, but I do see progress. He is asking Bug questions and for permissions more often. We're getting there.See More "

Who's Pencil Box?

An example of teaching property rights to a toddler- Bug (23m) walks up to me holding a pencil box that belongs to Josh (8y). Bug- Open um? Open um, Mama. ... Me- That's Josh's pencil box, Bug. That isn't mine to open for you. Bug- Open up, Mama? Open um? Me- No honey, this is Josh's. You need to ask Josh for permission to open his box. Bug- Open um? Open um? (shoving box into my hand) Me- No Bug, this is Josh's box. You need to ask Josh for permission. Go ask Josh. Bug- Joshy? Joshy box? Me- Yes, this is Josh's box. You need to ask Josh for permission to open his box. Bug- Joshy!!!!! (Runs to find Josh. Josh comes out into the living room.) Josh- What Bug? Bug- Open um? Open um? Josh- No bug, those are mine. Give them to me please. Bug- Open um??? (a little upset) Josh- No, please give me the box. (Bug holds onto the box) Josh- Buuuug, that is my box. Please give me my box. (After a moment Bug reluctantly hands over box) Josh- Want to go find some different toys to play with? Bug- Okay Joshy! And they both run off to play with something else.See More "

Josh's Hair Cut

Back Story- Josh (8y) has not quite long hair, but its been growing out for a while. He asked me the other day to trim the back a little, but whenever I was able to do it he was busy with something else so it hasn't happened. Fast Forward- This morning Bug (23m) and I went to run an errand. Josh wanted to stay home, so he did. When we got back Josh ran up to me, SO excited, before I even got in ...the door saying, "Mom, mom, guess what I did!?" I could plainly see he had cut his hair. There were chunks missing all around his head. Oddly enough, the hair at the back was still long. But I still asked, "What did you do?!" "I cut my hair! AND I swept it up and put the broom and dustpan away ALL BY MYSELF!" Me- "That's awesome! Did you want me to trim the back for you?" Josh- "No, I got it already. I used the comb and just reached behind my head with the scissors." Me- "Alright then." Old Me would have mentioned how uneven it was and insisted he let me "fix it". But thankfully New Me realizes it is not my hair, so not mine to "fix". He is obviously happy with it and proud of himself, and if he's happy I'm happy.See More "

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Glimpse into Our Day

hat does a typical unschooling day look like? It is full of learning, but may not look like it to the "untrained" eye. Today the boys got up around 10am and helped me make eggs and toast for breakfast (home ec). Then they watched Phineas and Ferb for an hour, which may not look like learning, but Josh loves talking about how tv shows are made, voice overs, etc (art). We all got dressed (personal... hygiene). We got in the car to run some errands, and the car stalled because I let the clutch out while it was still in gear, so we talked about why that happened (mechanics). We drove downtown to pick up some lenses for Papa Bear and talked about how driving on the freeway was like being a blood cell in a vein or artery and side streets were like capillaries (biology). We got off course and Josh helped me use a map app to find our way (tech systems, map skills). He then asked if all city's road systems were set up in circles or squares (social studies). We sang songs while we drove (choir), one of which was the state and capitols song (social studies again). Once we got home we checked our compost pile, which was covered in flies, so we did some research and found out it is too wet (problem solving skills). So we added more leaves while we turned it and saw all its nasty decomposition glory (chemistry). The boys played outside (p.e.). Then one of Josh's friends came over to visit (social skills). Upon his arrival they quizzed each other on square roots, order of operations, and other math jargon using a math clock we've got in the living room (from They built legos to look like Star Wars ships (creativity), among other things. We went out for drive through dinner (shame on me) and talked about the effects of a high sugar or high sodium diet (nutrition). While we were out we drove through downtown where the square is lit with lights set to music. We talked about how many lights there were, and how many people must have coordinated to put them all up and set them to timers (math, science, problem solving). The radio station signal they used only reached the area directly around the square, so when the signal faded as we drove away we talked about radio waves, wave length and signal strength (math and science). Currently Josh is watching Doctor Who while I get Bug ready for bed. He loves talking about things like how the TARDIS is such a small box outside but large inside, and how they cut the film to create that illusion (art, biology). He wants to use our camera to make his own short film doing the same tricks. So there you have it, a very relaxed day in the KIU home, learning lurking around every corner, inside every experience and conversation. ♥

How Will They Go To College?

Whenever I see discussions about unschooling, or talk with people about the idea, I often see or hear this question- How will they take the SAT/ACT to get into college? It is a legitimate concern, and I understand that most of us have been programmed to think people MUST go to college so they can get a good job, make money, have nice things, and be "successful". First, we need to let go of that ...idea. Success is not found in material things. Success is finding a way to support yourself doing something you enjoy. For many, that will not require graduating from college. Here's a short list of "successful" people who didn't graduate from college you may have heard of- Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Ralph Lauren, Ansel Adams, Julie Andrews, John D. Rockefeller, Sir Richard Branson, Dave Thomas, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison. A film school rejected Steven Spielberg. Your child may not want to go to college, rendering the above question moot. But suppose they do want to go to college. That would make scoring well enough on the SAT/ACT important to them. The same resources available to schooled kids are also available to unschooled kids. Study guides, practice tests, prep classes, tutors, etc. If scoring well on those tests is important to them, they will find a way to make it happen

Trust Enough to Cry

How much trust does it take for us to share our raw emotions? Will you cry and bare your soul to just anyone? When our babies and toddlers are crying and screaming, they are not being bad or manipulative. They are trusting us with their raw emotions. They are saying to us, "I have these big feelings and I don't know how to handle them." They are trusting us to guide them and teach them how to wor...k through those big feelings and frustrations. We must not betray this trust. We must not insinuate their feelings are wrong. That would teach them only to suppress their emotions and bottle them up, which (I hope) we all know is unhealthy. We must acknowledge their emotions. We must teach them the words for what they are feeling. We must let them know their emotions are valid and important. We must teach them ways to work through their feelings and communicate effectively. Above all, we must always be a safe place for them to feel they can be themselves.See More

How Do We Change the World?

The other night I had a lengthy, in depth conversation with a dear friend about how we could "change the world". How could we get more parents aware of the option to parent peacefully? How could we educate them? How could we help them work through their childhood issues to move to a healthier place to parent their own children? The short answer is- We don't. No one can "make" someone want to do ...better. No one can "make" someone want to make peace with their past. That is a personal journey for each individual to take. The most significant thing I can do is to better myself. I am far from perfect. I have my own past to make peace with. What was I thinking, that I could crusade out into the world to help others? I will focus on making myself as peaceful as I can, and raising my boys as peacefully as I can. In turn, hopefully they will raise their children peacefully as well. Perhaps others will observe us, in person or here on this page, and be inspired to start on their own journeys. I will do what I can to support and encourage them. Maybe, in turn, they will inspire others. The world changes one person at a time, and it starts with me.See More

Josh Gets Into Cleaning

Remember the other day when Josh (8y) told me he "wasn't into cleaning"? And then he asked me to mop a few days later? Well, today one of his friends is coming over. I said I wanted to clean the house up some before he got here and started picking up. I mentioned wanting to vacuum my room. Josh- Oooh, oooh! I'll go get the vacuum! (comes back with vacuum) I'll plug it in. Can I do it. ... Me- Yeah. I'll go pick up Bug's room while you get that done. (Josh finishes my room and sets the vacuum up in Bug's room, then starts playing a puzzle with Bug.) Me- Want me to do this room while you play? Josh- No, I want to do it. Vacuuming is my new favorite thing! Me- *conceals shock* Okay, I'll go throw some laundry in the wash. He went on to do the living room (even though there's no carpet) and mopped too. Me- Thanks for your help! I was able to get some more chores done while you did the vacuuming, and now the house is clean and we can relax. Josh- You're welcome! Thanks for doing the other stuff. Its a lot easier when we work together

A Conversation with Papa on Trust

Papa Bear and Josh were having a rough time the other night. A screen on the porch got torn and Papa was sure Josh had something to do with it, though Josh insisted he didn't know what happened. Later on, Josh and I were cooking. Just before he plunged his hand into some dough I asked, "Did you wash your hands when you came in?" Josh- Yeah *plunges hands into dough* Papa- Did you really? J- Yes! P- When? Which sink? J- Dad! I said yes! At this point I gave Papa one of those "take a deep breath and walk away before this escalates" looks behind Josh's back. Later on, Papa and I were talking alone. Papa- Can we talk about earlier? Me- Yeah. You know, your first response with him has to be trust. P- I'm still so irritated with the screen though. I'm certain he tore it (for reasons I won't get into here) but he keeps telling me he doesn't know what happened. What am I supposed to do when he's lying to me? How am I supposed to trust him? M- Well first off, I remember times when I got in trouble for things as a kid and I honestly didn't remember doing them. Your mind can wander and you can be goofing off lost in thought and not realize what you're doing. Maybe that happened. Maybe he really doesn't *know* how the screen tore. P- Maybe, but I still don't understand what you mean when you say my first response needs to be trust. M- Say he did rip the screen and he came and told you. How would you react? What would you say? P- I'd be mad. I'd ask him what he was doing. Why he wasn't being more careful. M- Do you hear how that is a judgment? No one wants to be judged when they make mistakes. So naturally he's not going to want to come tell you the truth. P- But what about when I ask him and he lies? I just don't understand why I'm supposed to pretend I believe him when I know he's lying. M- Its the same thing. He knows you're going to have a negative reaction to the truth, so he feels compelled to lie. He's afraid of your reaction to the truth. P- *grumble* M- You have to be a safe place for him now, so he can feel secure in coming to you with the truth later on. P- I'm still not seeing it. M- What does it accomplish for you to ask him what he was doing and why he wasn't more careful? Nothing positive. P- So what am I supposed to do? M- Make a statement of observation- "The screen got torn. It needs to be replaced. Want to replace it together?" It's like the other day when I made that huge mess on the floor. I knew I wasn't being careful, I didn't need anyone to tell me that. If he knowingly tore the screen he knows he made a mistake. He doesn't need us to tell him that. But he does need to know he's still loved and respected by us regardless. P- Yeah, I see what you're saying. M- And when you were drilling him about whether he'd washed his hands, how do you think that made him feel? P- Like I didn't trust and respect him. M- And how likely is he to feel open in coming to you if that's your relationship? P- *sigh* Not likely... M- I remember my parents treating me like that as a teenager. I was a good kid but they didn't think so. Eventually I started doing bad stuff because I got treated like crap regardless. P- Yeah... Okay I think I understand this now. You're so much better at this than I am. M- Not really, I just spend more hours with them everyday so I've had more practice. And for the record, I saw Josh wash his hands in the bathroom.

Universal Rules from Sherlock Holmes

We as humans are always searching for the 'universal', the rules that apply to everything. The simple things that connect us all. Along those lines, I had an interesting conversation with Josh earlier this week. We were watching the newest Sherlock Holmes at the scene where tanks and machine guns are rolling through a wooded area. Me- Josh, what do you think about war? ... Josh- Well, nobody has the right to hurt other people, so it's bad. M- What about destroying people's things? J- Nobody has the right to destroy other people's property either. So that's wrong too. *tree explodes on the screen* M- What about the trees? J- Well if they are on someone else's land, they are their property. So no one else has the right to destroy them. M- Trees are alive, right? J- Yes. M- Do they have the right to their own lives the same way we do? Can anyone justly "own" a tree? J- Hmmmmm. Well I guess everything that's alive should own themselves. M- Animals too? J- Well yeah. M- What about the animals we eat? Or animals kept as pets? Is that alright, if we applied the ideas of liberty to them as well? J- We shouldn't kill anything then. M- How would we eat if we didn't kill anything? In order for us to stay alive we have to eat things that are or were alive. J- Do we kill plants when we eat them? If we eat an apple it doesn't kill the whole tree. M- That's true. We could eat fruits, nuts and berries, but when we eat things like carrots we eat the whole plant. The carrot is the root, and the leaves can't live without the root. J- Hmmm. Okay Mom, I want to watch the movie now. We don't eat vegan, and I wasn't trying to lead him to that line of thinking, but it is important to always stretch our ways of thinking. Lots of new perspectives for us to think about here. *Side note- Later we wondered just how much we could eat if we ate only fruit, and found the definition of a fruit is anything which grows from the flower of a plant. In case you were curious too.See More

What is Discipline?

If you look up the word 'discipline' in a dictionary (or more likely with an app) you'll find several definitions. One is "to teach", one is "to punish" (among others). What is our ultimate goal with our children? To teach them, or to punish them? To answer that let's look more into what it is to 'teach'. Often we confuse teaching as something we can do 'to' someone. "I'm going to teach Bug the... alphabet", for example. But my 'teaching' is no guarantee he will learn what I am presenting. What he learns is completely in his control. My part as 'teacher' is simply to facilitate his learning, to provide an environment and material which allow him to learn. To teach is to work collaboratively with the learner. To punish is to do something 'to' someone. My Random House Webster's dictionary defines punish as "to subject to pain, loss, confinement, or death as a penalty for some offense or fault." Punishment is an attempt at behavior modification and control. An attempt because, like trying to actively teach someone, there is no guarantee the behavior will change in the way the punisher desires. Many defend spanking, time-out, loss of privileges, and other punishments as a way to teach their children important lessons. While these actions are a form of discipline, as defined above, they are NOT a form of teaching. They are attempts at behavior modification and control, nothing more. So back to our earlier question- Is our ultimate goal to facilitate our children's learning, or to control their behavior?See More

Mama's thoughts on Santa

My thoughts on Santa- I'm referring to the commercialized Santa, the guy who watches you all year and has a naughty and nice list. I don't care for the idea that being "good" gets you a material "prize". I don't want to teach that at all. I don't want the idea that someone is watching you to judge your actions getting into the kids' heads either. I want them to do good, be kind and charitable bec...ause they are internally motivated to do so. Because of how it makes them feel to give to others. We will get them each a couple of gifts, and they will know they're from us. We will share with them the stories and the history of all the holidays of the season. Santa's story will be one of those and it will be fun I'm sure, but just a story.See More